Linden Hall has been outstanding in 2018. She has run personal bests over four distances in three continents, she has broken the Australian record in the 1500m and Mile, and at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games she won thousands of new fans with her fighting fourth in the 1500m final. And it isn’t over yet.
To summarise her journey to 2018, Hall made an Australian Team as a junior, she moved from Melbourne to the US at 20 years old and steadily improved while at college in Florida. She was able to dedicate more time to track and got fantastic race experience.
Post college and competing internationally in 2015 and 2016 her 1500m time dropped from a solid 4:15.51 to a world class 4:01.78. She achieved her childhood dream and made the Olympic Team in 2016, where she missed the final in Rio by one spot. 2017 was strong but not spectacular, setting personal bests over the mile but run out in the heats of the 1500m at the world championships in London.
The 27-year-old isn’t totally satisfied with her 2018 season so far and the fact she keeps breaking national records without really worrying about the clock, makes the humble athlete’s prospects even more exciting.
“There’s been a few ups and downs with the season so far, but I’ve achieved some big goals I’ve been thinking about for a while,” Hall said.
Breaking the Australian 1500m record in Eugene is the highlight of her year. She hadn’t put any pressure on herself to break the record and wasn’t worrying about the splits during the race at the Prefontaine Classic on the 26th of May. However, 4:00.93 is a time that she has been reminded of nearly everyday since it was set back in 2006 by her former coach and friend Sarah Jamieson.
“I’ve known the micro-seconds of that record for a long time,” Hall explained. “I remember when she ran it and it was on the club board at the track where I used to train everyday as a junior.”
Hall finished sixth in 4:00.86 and became the fastest Australian in history over 1500m.
“I had no idea what pace we were on the whole time. It definitely felt good in the last lap and you know when you’ve got another gear in the last lap you’re usually on for something.
“It wasn’t until the times started coming up on the board that I started thinking about the record. I was sixth and the top five times came up and I knew I was going to be close.
“It was probably about five seconds but it felt like five minutes until my time came up. Not many people around knew what the Australian record is of course, so I was the weird person in sixth place that was probably a bit too excited to have come sixth.”
Prefontaine was somewhere that she’d run a lot at college and set her big personal best of 4:01.78 exactly two years earlier. Since then the record had been a goal but she wasn’t agonising over it.
“I didn’t put a whole lot of pressure on myself for it to be anything more than a race. I wasn’t chasing a qualifying time, I wasn’t thinking about breaking a record. One of my main goals for the race was to not look at the clock and be in the front part of the race and not let any gaps open-up and focus on racing the girls in the race rather than the clock.”
Jamieson who coached Hall in 2010 and 2011 before she went to college in the US and recommended her to her former coach Bruce Scriven when she returned in 2015. Scriven responsible for both athletes when they broke the record.
“It’s nice to have that connection with Sarah and I’d like to think that if anyone was going to break her record she would be have preferred it to be me,” Hall said.
“It did have a bit more value because she is someone that I always looked up to as a junior. It feels like we’ve kept it in the family a little bit. We’ve kept it at Athletics Essendon.”
In between the thrill of Gold Coast 2018 and the Australian record things didn’t go to plan in the first Diamond League of the season in heat of the middle-east.
“After the high of the Commonwealth Games my run in Doha (4:07.07) was a little bit shattering, I went there expecting to run well.
“I then had three weeks until Prefontaine to kind of regroup and build up a bit of confidence again from training and get over the emotional ride of the Gold Coast, as maybe it took more out of me than I gave it credit for at the time.”
Taking it to Semenya on the Gold Coast
“Leading in to the final I sat down with my coach and Sarah and we talked about how we thought we should run the race. We knew the biggest threat coming in was (Caster) Semenya with her incredible speed.
“We decided to go with a plan of trying to really burn her and run really aggressively at the front. Either going to win or come last, kind of attitude. It was a little bit scary to think about all day after committing to that plan.”
Hall pushed the pace with Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech who had the same race plan but Semenya loomed large..
“It was a scary way to run it, and I’m really glad I made the decision to run it that way, even though it didn’t quite pan out. It was a quick race. The three girls all ran PBs to make the podium.”
Semenya made her move with 250 metres to go and was too good, winning comfortably in 4:00.71 to set a Games and National Record. Chepkoech hung on for second (4:03.09, PB) and Melissa Courtney (4:03.44, PB) from Wales had the race of her life and passed Hall with 50 metres to run. Hall was fourth (4:03.67, SB) with Australian teammate Georgia Griffith a fantastic fifth (4:04.17, PB) and Zoe Buckman fading to 12th (4:06.76).
“It was a great 1450 metres,” Hall says with a laugh. “The second lap was maybe a little slow and I maybe could have gone a little harder there, but I don’t think we really showed any signs of burning off Semenya. She was obviously in great shape and had learnt a lot more about running the 1500 compared to the world championships where she looked a little more vulnerable.
“I would definitely do the same thing again and it would maybe come out as a bronze.”
Hall loved the build-up and atmosphere of the Gold Coast Games and despite missing her goal of a medal it set her up well for a great year.
“Coming fourth is sometimes a bit bitter sweet, but that definitely served as a good motivation going overseas and put me in a good position to try and run something quick.
“Having that championship early meant that we were able to just race and not worry about qualifying times and peaking for a championship, we could just target some of those quick races where we knew there was going to be pace and a really quality field.”
After breaking the 1500m record Hall went to Europe and continued racing well, including a third in Barcelona and fourth in Madrid, both sub 4:05.
She then had the Mile in London at her favourite Diamond League venue in Europe.
“I went in with a similar mindset of trying to be around the right people and try and stay in touch as much as possible. It was very fast at the front and the field was really strung so it was a bit different to the other races this year.
“I wasn’t worried about splits and when I crossed the line I wasn’t really confident on the times. Because I was outside the top few my time never went up on the scoreboard. We got ushered through to post event and I had to find someone with the result. It’s a bit weird when you come 10th in a race but you break a record! I did get an official print-out of the result though.”
Hall’s time of 4:21.40 was a best by 2.96 seconds and bettered Lisa Corrigan’s national record of 4:22.66 from 2007.
Doha 2019 and Tokyo 2020
Reaching the final of the world championships in Doha and the Olympic Games in Tokyo is something Hall and Scriven are actively chasing.
“I definitely left Rio wanting to go to another Olympics,” Hall explained. “I was the first person out of the final there so definitely want to make that final in two years, and once you are in the final of a race like the 1500 really anything can happen because it can go so many different ways.
“Tokyo is definitely something I think about and it will become a big focus as we start getting into the qualifying period. Rio was definitely one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to hopefully do it again!”
Coach Scriven and Australian sports scientist Ned Brophy-Williams are already discussing altitude training options and heat coping preparations for Doha and Tokyo.
“Ned was a huge help leading into Comm Games with an altitude tent for Linden in Melbourne, and we are keen to work together again,” Scriven said.
The coach also has plans to make Hall ready for the tactics and change in pace that is required to succeed at the major championships.
Hall is impressed by the depth in Australian distance running leading into Doha and Tokyo.
“It’s really exciting to see so many people coming through because it’s only going to help the girls at the top as well.
“The girls who ran at the World U20s did really well and Jess Hull winning NCAAs is no easy feat. I’ve run three and they are very hard to win. I was super impressed to see her result and it was pretty damn quick as well. Georgia Griffith as she gets more experience over the 1500 will be hard to beat and Zoe Buckman is a great competitor.
“I think there will be a few of us fighting for those spots come Tokyo.”
Coach and athlete
Scriven and Hall had known each other for a long time before they started training together in late 2015. Hall used to race some girls Scriven trained when she was a junior and then when Jamieson recommended her, he knew she must be good.
“There are a lot of similarities between Sarah and Linden, as people and athletes,” Scriven said.
“She is a lot of fun to be around but when she hits the track she means business. Her work ethic, attitude and even how she takes it up to the top junior guys at training is great.”
Hall liked that Scriven had coached Jamieson to the record and the belief he had in her.
“That was a good omen for me and his training was not crazy different to what I was doing in College to get down to 4:10. And I didn’t want any crazy changes.
“The first time I met up with him when I came back to Melbourne to find out a little bit more he said ‘you better be thinking about Rio’ and that really showed me from the get-go that he had faith in me to make that Team, which is ultimately what I wanted to do.”
Bottle of Moet waiting for sub-4 minute 1500m
Hall and Scriven do have one time in mind for the future and there is a bottle of Moet champagne at the coaches’ house for if the goal is achieved.
“Ultimately for any 1500 runner the goal is to break that four-minute barrier. It would be pretty special to be the first Australian to do so. That is definitely in the back of my mind but I find if I get to bogged down in trying to run a specific time it doesn’t help my performance. I always run better when I just focus on the race and not the clock so much.”
Scriven used a conversation about the champagne as an example of her professionalism.
“I asked her, what if you break the Australian record and not 4-minutes? ‘Then we’ll just keep chipping away,’ she responded. There is no popping that bottle before it’s done!” Scriven said.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that she can break 4-minutes.”
Hall is thriving on the opportunity to run in Diamond League races and hopes if she can keep being competitive in the best races, then more great times will come.
“I’d like to think that it will be at one of those Diamond League races that I’ll be able to break the four minutes. At this point though I’m not actively chasing sub-4, I’m working towards it but not obsessing over it.”
More to do in 2018 season
Hall has been back training in Melbourne while the area championships are underway. She heads back to Europe mid-August for a month, through until the Continental Cup in Ostrava, although not officially selected yet.
“I’m also crossing my fingers to get into the Diamond League final. At the moment I’m just outside but there are a few 800 girls and 5k girls, so I’m in the hands of whether the other girls decide to run or not. If not there are a few other races around that we’ll have in the lead-up to Continental Cup.”
She’ll finish the season with the Mitchell Street Mile in Darwin before having a well-deserved break at home in Melbourne, where she is looking forward to not living out of a suitcase and recharging. Before sitting down to plan out 2019.
Hall is sure the key to her success is “staying healthy and having consistency with hard training.”
Having studied to be a dietician and working on ‘a few side projects’ with nutrition education she has all the knowledge to stay healthy and has the hunger for more success on the track.
Linden Hall’s 2018 PBs
1500m: 4:00.86 (Eugene USA, 26 May 18),
Mile: 4:21.40 (London GBR, 22 Jul 2018),
3000m: 8:53.27 (Sydney AUS, 17 Mar 18),
5000m: 15:18.77 (Newcastle AUS, 20 Jan 18)
AUS 1,500M ALL-TIME LIST
4:00.86 Linden Hall VIC Eugene, USA 26 May 18
4:00.93 Sarah Jamieson VIC Stockholm, Sweden 25 Jul 06
4:01.34 Margaret (Leaney) Crowley VIC Oslo, Norway 6 Jul 96
4:03.22 Zoe Buckman VIC Paris, France 27 Aug 16
4:04.17 Georgia Griffith VIC Gold Coast 10 Apr 18
4:04.62 Jenny Blundell NSW Beijing, China 18 May 16
4:05.25 Lisa Corrigan NSW Sydney 17 Feb 07
4:05.56 Melissa Duncan VIC Oslo, Norway 11 Jun 15
4:05.61 Kaila McKnight VIC Shanghai, China 19 May 12
4:06.47 Madeline (Heiner) Hills N 150587 4 Heusden, Belgium 16 Jul 16
AUS MILE ALL-TIME LIST
4:21.40 Linden Hall VIC London 9 Jul 17
4:22.66 Lisa Corrigan NSW Melbourne 2 Mar 07
4:23.40 Sarah Jamieson VIC Melbourne 2 Mar 07
4:25.84 Margaret (Leaney) Crowley VIC Monaco 10 Aug 96
4:26.90 Melissa Duncan VIC 2 Dublin 11 Jul 14